It was with dismay that we read recently of the impending closure of the renowned, remarkable and marvelous Minter Gardens.
Its fate is unknown, at least for now. A subdivision perhaps, the tremendous cedars felled and sawn into shingles or siding? Or possibly a saviour in the form of an economic lifeline from a philanthropic flower fan?
Either way, Brian Minter will leave the garden, so to speak, in mid-October as a result of a family decision to concentrate on their nursery and plant sales operations.
Minter Gardens, despite Brian’s love of the place, apparently doesn’t fit in the long-term financial plan of the business, so after more than 30 years of presenting the glory of nature, its gates will be finally locked.
A shame, but understandable in a climate that offers little more than three or four months of sunshine that make walking and marveling at the extensive gardens enjoyable.
Thus was this Sunday deemed visit time, perhaps for the last occasion, to see the incredible showcase that over three decades Mr. Minter has developed for millions to appreciate.
As I pulled off the freeway at Bridal Falls I noticed an old car gleaming in the sunshine, and mused that the gardens might be hosting one of their famed antique car shows.
Sure enough, approaching the entrance, the number of vehicles lining nearby streets not only indicated a major attraction but crowds of people. Neither disappointed, and throughout the at-capacity parking lot and within the grounds were some magnificent and some nostalgic machines.
A bright red 1955 XK-140 Jag ‘fixed head coupe’ (that’s a hardtop sports car for non-aficionados) got my motor running. A little later an ancient four-door was pointed out: “When I was little my dad drove one just like this – a 1928 Chrysler … oh, this one’s a year newer – and I even now am amazed at the size of the back seat!”
We also marveled at the size of some of the other “more modern” American machines of the ’50s and ’60s. There was a Buick wagon that I’m sure is as long as today’s Chevy Suburban, and a pink and black Mercury that probably takes up more parking space than three Smart cars, or the biggest pickup truck.
Many of the vehicles were identified as being owned by Abbotsford residents. Jake Friesen had at least six from his local collection on display, many of them painted a wonderful deep burgundy. Either that’s his favourite colour, or he got a bargain on the paint. Regardless, his ’50s Chrysler and other beauties were spectacular. As were the many British sports cars that caught my eye, including a good number of Minis – the original “truly mini” that stretches just 10 feet bumper to bumper yet accommodated an almost six and a half footer. That was me in my ’63, which sported a full race engine and handled like it was on railway tracks.
I also felt a twinge of nostalgia, and not a little regret, at the display of Austin Healeys. That was my final British sports car, one of the last ‘big Healeys’ to roll off the assembly line in 1958. It turned quite a few heads in the 1980s before being sold in 1987 to avoid its constant need of repairs nickel and diming me to death.
Fortunately there will always be more ‘old car’ shows over which to reminisce, but there won’t (at least at this time) be another Minter Gardens come October.
Take the opportunity to walk through this fabulous attraction one last time. It will, like the cars of yore, create lasting memories.